John used similar terms to describe the seal (Rev 6:1-17; 8:1-6), trumpet (Rev 8:1-9:21; 11:15-19) and bowl judgments (Rev 16:1-21). John’s visions of judgement included common figures and imagery because the Lord who called His people out of Egypt and spoke to the prophets of Israel was the same Lord who revealed to John what would soon take place on earth. The judgement scenes in Revelation brought to fulfillment the Lord’s work in Israel and Jesus.
(1) In Rev 15:3, John heard the victorious saints singing the song of Moses and of the Lamb, recalling Moses’ songs after the exodus and just before his death. After the exodus, Moses and Israel sang to the Lord a song of praise for delivering them from Pharaoh’s clutches (Exodus 15). Moses and Israel extolled the Lord as the warrior against Whom no one could stand, the One orchestrating the natural world as an instrument of judgement, the One reigning forever. John heard the faithful standing on a sea of glass crying out to God and proclaiming His greatness as King of all nations, the only Holy One (Rev 15:3-4).
(2) In Rev 15:5-8, John saw a heavenly tabernacle opened and filled with smoke from God’s glory so that no one could enter—just as smoke prevented anyone from entering the tabernacle and the temple after they were constructed. When the tabernacle and all of its furnishings were completed, Moses placed the ark of the covenant in the tabernacle and offered the burnt offering and grain offering as the Lord commanded (Exod 40:16-29). Then a cloud covered the tabernacle and the Lord’s glory filled it, preventing Moses from entering (Exod 40:34-35). When Solomon constructed the temple and the priests brought the ark of the covenant into the most holy place, a cloud of the Lord’s glory filled the temple and the priests could not enter (1 Kgs 8:1-11; 2 Chron 5:13-14).
(3) In Rev 16:10, John saw the beast’s kingdom plunged into darkness, echoing the darkness that came upon Pharaoh and the Egyptians in the ninth plague. The Lord told Moses to stretch out his hand to the heavens and a thick darkness would come over all the land of Egypt except where Israel dwelt (Exod 10:21-23). The fourth angel poured its bowl on the sun, intensifying its heat so that those dwelling on earth were burned. The fifth angel poured out its bowl of God’s wrath upon the throne of the beast who was empowered by the dragon (Revelation 13) and his kingdom was encompassed by thick darkness (Rev 16:10). The contrast between the fourth and fifth bowls demonstrated God’s sovereignty over the heavenly bodies, enhancing or diminishing them for His own purposes.
(4) In Rev 16:12-21, John saw demonic forces gathering earthly kings for the battle at Armageddon, recalling the prophets’ predictions of a great, final battle when God would orchestrate natural disasters to annihilate His enemies. Ezekiel described the period when the Lord would call the nations for battle with Israel so that He would show Himself as the holy God of His people by executing Israel’s enemies with cataclysm and natural disaster (Ezek 38:1-39:20). Joel likewise announced that on the Day of the Lord, the Lord would demonstrate His greatness by raising His voice against Israel’s foes (Joel 2:11), having gathered them for battle to exact His vengeance upon them (Joel 3:2). When the sixth angel poured its bowl on the Euphrates River, unclean spirits like frogs came forth from the mouth of the dragon, the beast, and the false prophet to summon the nations for the war on the day when God, the Almighty, would show His dominion (Rev 16:14-16). When the seventh angel poured its bowl into the air, the Lord demonstrated His great anger by sending cataclysmic storms and an earthquake in order to glorify Himself before those dwelling on earth (Rev 16:17-21).